tv KQED Newsroom PBS January 6, 2018 1:00pm-1:31pm PST
hello and welcome to kqed newsroom. i'm thuy vu. coming up on our program, a california republican and democrat have a bipartisan plan focused on tech firms that rely on foreign labor. california's market for legal recreational marijuana kicked off this week. we'll hear from experts about the high stakes and potential pitfalls. but first -- >> he's brought us to the brink of nuclear war. >> if you've watched any cable tv recently, you've probably seen an ad calling for the impeachment of president donald trump. the ads were paid for by billionaire tom steyer. the former hedge fund manager is one of the top donors to the democratic party. he has poured millions of dollars into get out the vote campaigns. he discussed his political
motivations with kqed politics editor scott shafer. >> welcome to "kqed newsroom." >> thank you for having me. >> you're spending a lot of money, tens of millions of dollars on ads calling for the impeachment of president trump. you've never held office. you've never run for office. why are you, tom steyer, the guy to be saying it's time to impeach the president? >> well, i don't think it's at all about me actually, scott. what we're really trying to do is empower the voice of the american people. what we're doing is letting, at this point, over 4 million people put their voices together to say this is a dangerous president. he's unfit for office. we need to get him out. so it really isn't at all about me. we're not convincing anyone to do this, i assure you that. we're enabling them to put together a collective national voice to speak up to elected officials. >> as you know, you're getting a lot of pushback from democrats, starting with house minority leader nancy pelosi, who says it's too soon.
we need to wait for this mueller investigation to run its course. you're endangering the democrats' efforts to retake the house. you're smiling. you disagree with that. >> it's not the first time i've heard it. that's why i'm smiling. let me start with the question about it's too soon. we got four constitutional scholars -- i'm not a lawyer, but we got four law professors for two hours to take us through exactly the case for impeachment, and we put it on the web at needtoimpeach.com. and it is an open and shut case that he has met the criteria for impeachment. we're supportive of the mueller investigation. he is investigating two out of the nine criteria that this president has met. so there's no doubt in my mind that from a legal standpoint, it's clear. the second question you asked me was, is this bad for democrats? >> that's what democrats say, a lot of democratic -- >> here's what i would say. we are telling the truth. we believe he is unfit. we believe all those democrats
would agree with us that he's unfit. we think that he's dangerous to the american people. we believe those democrats would agree with that. we believe that this is the constitutional remedy for a dangerous, unfit president, and when they say -- what they're really saying is, this is going to rile up the republican base. >> well, also, yes, that's true. it will drive up turnout among republicans, but they're also saying, look, any impeachment proceedings need to begin in the house of representatives, which is controlled by republicans. let us win back the house first. isn't that a good argument? >> well -- >> republicans aren't going to impeach him. >> i can add -- i did go to high school, so i can get 50% of 100 and half of 435. i think there's a different question about impeachment. you're talking about a grave move, removing the elected president of the united states. that is not supposed to happen in a vacuum. it is a long process. it took 2 1/2 years with richard nixon.
it is something where the people of the united states, who we're really talking with and for. the people of the united states have to understand that something really wrong has taken place, or this can't happen, you know, in a vacuum, behind closed doors. and it's a process that we've begun, that it's important to begin because it is urgent, and it's bringing it to the american people, saying, take a look. this is dangerous and urgent. >> why are democrats, you think, being so cautious? >> i don't want to speak for them, but i will speak to their concern, and that's this. what i've heard is that they're worried about the idea that republicans will be angry at the concept of impeachment and therefore we're inflaming their base. i see this in a different view, which is we're speaking to americans generally, and we're speaking to democrats and independents. the question is if we're telling an important truth to the american people and to democrats, won't that actually get them to go to the polls? if we're talking about the major
question in the united states, it is not a secret to the american people that this president is very different. >> you're saying, though, in these ads that elected officials have a moral responsibility to speak out and to support impeachment. a moral responsibility. and this week your group, next gen america also sent out a platform on sexual harassment and said that elected officials and candidates, if they don't embrace this platform, they're not morally fit to be in government. so it raises the question are you at risk of being sort of a moral scold here? >> well, i think that there is a point here about right and wrong, and i think that's the question honestly in 2018, scott. i think that people are getting way, way too far away from a basic question about american values, and that is actually what i do think is at question here. this is a question about the soul of america. this is not about a 35 or a 37% marginal tax rate. this is a question about whether
we're safe. it's a question about our people who are not rich, white, american males, fully citizens. these are the basic questions for americans. i think if you ask me do i think this is a moral question, that we are having a moral attack on the basic fabric of american society, i think definitely, and i would refer you to the elections in 2017 in virginia, in alabama, and in new jersey and tell me it's not moral. >> speaking of elections, there's a lot of speculation about your political future. you're making an announcement in washington on monday about your political plans for 2018. give us a preview. >> well, let me start by saying it would be crazy to pre-announce my announcement. >> we won't tell anybody. >> but let me say this. i started this by saying this isn't about me. this isn't about me. i am ambitious about something.
i am very ambitious. i want to be part of the group of people who push america back onto a just and prosperous path. i'm extremely -- >> you think you can do that best in office? >> that's what i'm going to address on monday. >> are you satisfied with the field of people running for the u.s. senate and for governor? >> i don't think we know yet who the field is. >> but there's speculation you could be part of the field. >> i know that. but i'm just saying you don't really -- no one really knows who's going to run because the filing deadline isn't until february, i don't think. but my point is i am absolutely frank and straightforward about the idea that i want to be in the group of people. i think we're in a dangerous position. i think our democracy is under attack. i think the safety of our citizenry is under attack, and i want to be one of the people who is locking arms and insisting that we go back and push for a just america. we go back and push for the kind of prosperity in the 21st century that is possible and within our reach and which i believe this administration is
blowing. >> last question. there is a book out today, "fire and fury." have you read it? >> i've read the excerpts. i have not gotten a copy of the book yet, but i'm looking forward to reading it. >> and are you going to give it to anybody? >> well, judging on the excerpts, we went out and bought 535 copies, and we're going to get citizen volunteers to deliver them to the office of every congressperson and senator because we believe when we started this impeachment petition on october 20th, we felt every subsequent day would bring information that would bolster our argument this was a dangerous, unfit president who needed to be removed from office. and from what i can tell, this book makes that case in very bold letters. >> all right. tom steyer, we'll look forward to the official announcement next week. thanks for coming in. now to immigration and silicon valley. republican congressman darrell issa of san diego county wants
to patch up what he calls loopholes in the h-1b visa program. many high tech firms rely on visas to hire foreign workers. but critics, including president trump, say the program is being exploited to take jobs away from american workers. issa co-authored the bill with democratic congresswoman zoe lock ran of san jose. both of them are with us now. congressman darryl ice s welcome to you both. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> congressman issa, what is the biggest problem you see right now with the h-1b visa program as it stands? >> well, the biggest challenge is to allocate a limited resource to the best and brightest and most needed of the 65,000 slots that we're changing the rules on, about 40% go to relatively low-skilled consulting jobs often displacing american workers. and we know that there are at least 65,000 employment
opportunities in high-skilled areas, masters and ph.d.s in the stem field that companies like facebook and google and others would fill if they could get those slots. so we just want to see that the -- and the congresswoman has been great on this -- the highest paying, the most skilled, the most needed are the first in line, and this goes a part of the way toward doing that. >> so how would your legislation reform the program? >> well, what it does is it takes care of what you called in the introduction loopholes which have a lot to do with history. 25 years ago, they said if you pay $60,000, you can get around certain proofs or attestations. well, you can imagine that over a couple of decades, 60,000 really should be 90,000 or $100,000 just to be equal dollars. >> and congresswoman lofgren, you normally oppose republican immigration policies, yet you
helped to write this bill. why? >> well, it's a small measure honestly. i had a bill that was more dramatic reform of the program, but this bill makes some incremental changes that improve the current situation, and therefore i thought it was worth pursuing because it's better than the status quo. there are several problems with the h 1 b program. one is the outsources issing is where you have low paid visa holders, come in, essentially replace american employees. sometimes the americans are even forced to train the foreign workers, and that is really not what the h 1 b program was for. this bill will help on that. we'll see if it actually fixes it, but we hope that it will by requiring recruitment a and prohibiting displacement and
actually requiring disbarment of firms if they don't live up to their obligations. >> the trump administration is now reportedly drafting a proposal that would require h-1b visa holders to leave the country while their green card applications are being process s processed. currently they're allowed to stay. what do you think of that? >> there's a couple areas. one is we need a broader bill that lifts the per country cap because often the reason they're waiting so long is they're from a particular country that has a long waiting list versus a short one. there's also a fix in our companion bill that senator hatch offered in the senate where it has a conditional green card process. so it would formalize who gets to stay beyond an h1. i believe if we can get this out of the house in the next couple of weeks, working with senator hatch, we can come up with an acceptable bipartisan approach. but at the same time, we shouldn't have somebody stay for x amount of years and then lose
them from the workforce. there's no logical reason to do that if we can provide fixes that get beyond the current, you know, some people staying for 14 or 15 years in this in between state. >> congresswoman lofgren, two things i want to get to really quickly. the trump administration, regarding offshore drilling. saying it two allow it on most coastal waters, including california. what is your reaction to that? >> i think that's a terrible idea. it used to be californians in the house from both parties would elbow each other out of the way to introduce bills to prevent oil drilling off the coast of california, and i hope that there's a way to stop that. but i want to go back to the issue that darrell raised, which is, you know, young, talented people. we have a pool of a couple of million young talented people, and they're called daca recipients. we ought to have a bipartisan urgent discussion on how to keep
those kids in a safe spot. they are losing their status now. nearly 120 a day. some have committed suicide on the idea that they might be sent back to some country they don't even know. so i'm happy to work on this tiny reform bill with darrell. maybe we can do bigger reform. but we've got this talented pool of young people that we should not be neglecting, and let's have some bipartisan discussion to fix that. >> congressman issa, what are some of the other issues that you can foresee working with congresswoman lofgren on or other democratic members of the house? >> well, i certainly think the question of offshore oil drilling off the california coast is one where there's going to be a united front to go to secretary zinke and make it clear that california doesn't want to be part of it. i hope we can also maybe be more responsive with our onshore
exploration in bakersfield and other areas. but the reality is we have plenty of oil and natural gas without going off the california coast, and i think that's an area you're going to see the zellgati delegations coming together. >> i wanted to ask you about the gop tax reform bill as well. you both voted against it. this week, state senate leader kevin de leon -- allow charitabledy duc deductions. this is designed to skirt. where do you stand on that, congresswoman lofgren? >> i thought it was a very creative idea, and i hope they do it. i hope that we take a look also at the property tax issue and see whether some of the property tax that cannot be deducted could also be dealt with in a similar manner as a voluntary contribution that is then
deductible from federal taxes. for the federal government to really, essentially shoot at democratic states as they've done here -- new york, new jersey, california, and double tax people is simply wrong. and i'm glad to see hour state government fighting back. >> and congressman issa, what do you think of some of these more creative measures that are coming forth? do you support them, or does it feel a little bit like gaming the system? >> well, you know, sometimes you find a legal loophole and you exploit it. in this case, i think the first principle that was violated in that bill was the idea that somehow the states don't get their money first. and what you have left is, by definition, taxable. so i thought it's a matter of principle. the bill had problems. that's why i voted no. you know, to be honest, anything we can do to even the playing field as californians because we're a donor state. we already send more money to washington than we get back.
wisconsin, kentucky, mississippi, states where this new law was popular, they're net recipients effectively of california, new york, and new jersey's money, and i think that's part of the principle is we don't want to artificially be sending more money to washington simply because tax policy has made us donors in a greater amount to washington. >> all right. i'm going to have to leave it there. representatives darrell issa and zoe lofgren, thank you so much for being with us. >> thank you. on january 1st, california became the biggest state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana for adults. the state has already issued more than 400 licenses to businesses that were hoping for big profits in the multi-billion dollar pot industry. but several cities, including san francisco, are still scrambling to put regulatory systems in place at the local level. meanwhile this week, the trump administration took aim at recreational cannabis, allowing
federal prosecutors to more aggressively enforce laws against marijuana, which remains illegal at the federal level. joining me now to discuss this are san francisco chronicle c cannabis reporter david downs, oakland extracts owner, karen buxton, and attorney henry why kos ki. welcome to you all. david, starting off with you, what has this first week been like since recreational marijuana became legal? >> it's been a mixture of elation and confusion and a little frustration on the part of californians. people are going to stores for the first time in decades. they never thought they'd be able to do this. other people in places like los angeles don't know where they can legally go yet. >> why is that? why are los angeles and san francisco not quite ready to go out of the gate and start issuing licenses? >> some of these cities haven't done their regulatory homework and they're still catching up to smaller cities that were more interested in getting sales started on day one. so san francisco will start on saturday, this coming january 6th. >> you sell edibles, extracts at
your store in oakland. what are you seeing there? what has business been like? >> we had to -- we had to deliver a lot of product to a lot of the other dispensaries in the area before january 1 because there was a rule about delivering things under the old regulatory regime before january 1. and then if you deliver anything after that, you have to follow the new compliance rules, which are much more complicated. so there was a ramp up of production in november and december to get ready for that. so we were distributing a lot of product. now we're just trying to make sure everything is going to be compliant for the next year. >> do you feel like things are unaring smoothly or still a lot of confusion, a lot of stops and starts? >> there's a lot of need for people to have compliance space. there's a lack of space for a lot of smaller businesses. there were companies that had a lot of product on the shelves last month but because of the new rules, they weren't able to exist now. a lot of people were shutting down temporarily. that's kind of upsetting the supply chain. >> henry, under the obama administration, federal prosecutors were discouraged from bringing charges in states
where marijuana is legal. but this week we're seeing the trump administration, we're hearing from attorney general jeff sessions, who is now urging federal prosecutors to be more aggressive about enforcing laws against marijuana. what are you hearing from business owners? are they worried about how this will affect them? >> well, of course they're worried. you know, we just recently celebrated the adult use coming on effect on monday, and now all of a sudden jeff sessions comes out with this document yesterday saying that he's rescinding what they're calling the obama administration memo. it's actually a memo that was introduced by the department of justice. it wasn't an obama memo. one wonders whether this is just part of the trump administration rescinding everything that obama did and whether or not anything will really change. >> i would imagine for a business owner like you, you're seeing what attorney general
jeff sessions is doing with the memo. what are you feeling, and do you have any fears about how it will affect your business? there will be efforts to go underground again? >> for some businesses, there will. i think the main concern is my business and a lot of other businesses are still in the process of trying to raise capital. a lot of the capital has been coming from other parts of the country. when jeff sessions starts making comments like this, the money gets nervous and limits your access to funding. so many businesses must have funding to comply with the new regulations because new regulations are so heavy. it's very expensive upgrades. people need outside funds to be able to do that. if you can't raise funds, it puts more stress on us all. >> it seems like jeff sessions has accomplished one goal, which is to make institutional investors and big business people more nervous. the smaller operators tend to be more risk tolerant, and they've been in the game for a number of decades. many of them will probably see this as a boon because they'll deal with less big business competition and certainly the
black market really feels emboldened when they see regulated markets come under threat like this. >> does it complicate things for business owners who want to be able to access bank services? does what's happening from the trump administration make them more nervous? >> federal law hasn't changed. cannabis remains a illegal drug equivalent to heroin. what's changed is direction saying cannabis businesses are not not a priority. does it mean they're a priority? who knows? if you're a business that has a risk management department, this certainly is going to make their hair catch on fire. >> there's some suspicion this was done just to impede the money that is now coming into the legal cannabis market to try to slow it down and impede the progress because as we know, attorney general sessions is not in favor of cannabis at all, whether it's medical or adult use. he said that he would tolerate medical use, but he's definitely against adult use. >> speaking of medical use, though and now recreational use, legalized here, shouldn't there
be some kind of federal controls in place? let's talk about medical marijuana, which you brought up. california legalized it more than 20 years ago. there's a surplus, and some of that surplus crosses state lines illegally. shouldn't there be some kind of strict federal controls in place? >> well, there are federal controls in place. people that move cannabis out of the state of california can be prosecuted for transporting it in interstate commerce, and prosecutions like that continue. they've backed off from prosecuting the dispensaries in california that are adhering to the law, but if you try to move the product out of the state, you do risk exposure to some very significant federal penalties. >> and president obama, under his administration, told u.s. attorneys to explicitly focus on those interstate traffickers. what attorney general sessions has done is taken away that type of prioritization. so he could actually be fomenting more in state trafficking if they start going after these lawful regulated actors. >> david, what about the danger
of people driving on the roads under the influence of marijuana? where are we right now with enforcement standards and efforts for that? >> sure. there was a big incident over the weekend on christmas day when a chp officer here in oakland was killed in an accident by a driver who was under the influence of two drugs, alcohol and cannabis. that driver had a 0.11 blood alcohol level. nobody is safe to drive under those conditions, including with cannabis on board. what we do know is that cannabis has been widely available in california since the '60s. the chp has tons of experience interdicting drugged drivers and up until now it hadn't been a significant priority. i think they're going to use scarce law enforcement resources as best and that tends to be on drunken drivers, weekend drivers, tired drivers, and distracted drivers. they're really the ones that are adding to the problems on the road. >> drunk driving arrests and convictions went down in colorado after adult use was legalized there. >> and drugged driving. >> yes. and actually alcohol
consumption, especially among the younger population, went down substantially also. >> but what about arrests for driving while high and under the influence of marijuana? didn't colorado see a rise in that? >> they might have saw a temporary spike as enforcement started focusing on that. but in the last year, we know that drugged driving arrests for marijuana in colorado went down. >> as a business owner, are you satisfied with the way things are going now, the way this is rolling out? are there significant regulatory issues that you still think need to be addressed? >> they haven't created a strong enough framework for small businesses, small cottage operations. that's the backbone of medical marijuana and should be backbone of recreational marijuana. creating an environment where you need so much money just to step into the game, you're kind of forcing people to either align with big business or with large investors who aren't going to have same concerns and priorities. i don't like the idea that small businesses are closing. every week i'm seeing on social media businesses that i've known for years, they're shuttering
because they can't keep up with compliance, and these are good people who have good employees. they should exist, and they're struggling to. they all talk about they're trying to come back online, but how long is that going to be? >> with legalization has come regulation, and we've actually had to hire an attorney in our office just to do compliance full-time because it is that labor-intensive. and it is unfortunate because it is pushing a lot of the people that allowed the industry to develop where it is today out because they can't bear those expenses. >> all right. >> i get the sense that the public wants two different things. heavy handed regulation in small businesses, and small businesses are the ones that benefit the least when there's a lot of red tape. >> okay. we will have to leave it there. david downs, chairen buxton, and harry why kos ki, thank you all for an interesting discussion. that will do it for us. you can find more of our coverage at kqed.org/newsroom.
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